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Presented by Gray Tuttle

Discussants: Jacob Dalton and Lewis Doney

Facilitator: Benjamin Bogin

While Padmasambhava is frequently described as a pivotal figure in the arrival and acceptance of Buddhism in imperial Tibet, no documents that are clearly contemporary with the Tibetan empire mention him. For instance, though later legends associate him strongly with Tibet’s first monastery, Samye, and its sponsoring emperor, Tri Songdetsen (active in late 8th century), neither the inscriptions on bells or stele from the monastery nor the emperor’s 42-year reign mention him. The earliest Tibetan manuscripts from a cave at Dunhuang that was closed around the year 1,000 do not record any of the rich narratives about Padmasambhava. They appear in the 12th-century biography of this figure, which remains the earliest account of his life. The presenter will question Tibetan studies scholars treating Padmasambhava as a historical figure. The respondents will suggest alternative views on the “historicity” of Padmasambhava and engage in a constructive debate about the historical significance of this figure.